Friday, 12 July 2019

A Community in Crisis: Lives and Property in Serious Jeopardy Due to Actions of Hereditary Council

In but another chapter of a never ending saga, the actions of the representatives of the Hereditary Chiefs Confederacy Council (HCCC) continue to initiate chaos within the Six Nations community.  However in the most recent example their behaviours not only cause substantial financial damage to the community (but not to themselves), but now matters have escalated to the point where they are putting the lives and property of community members in immanent danger.

As noted time and again in this Blog, the Hereditary Council is a historical entity removed from power for incompetence in 1924 that has not only fossilized, failing to adapt to the times, but also today of questionable authority since there are major inconsistencies in individual lineage (e.g., Chiefs being assigned to represent a clan and family to which they do not belong), and the claim to be the group representing the 49 Haudenosaunee Chiefs spoken of in the Kayenkiragowa (The Great Law) that does not hold up to scrutiny.  With respect to the latter the historical facts do not line up with the claims of legitimacy by the HCCC.  When the Revolutionary War broke out the Council Fire of the Six Nations at Onondaga (near Syracuse, NY) was extinguished.  What was reestablished in 1785 upon the move from what is today Upstate New York to the Haldimand Tract of the Grand River bore only a partial resemblance to the original Council.  Most of the Senecas (the largest of the Six Nations groups) remained within the United States and had their own Councils.  The Grand River community was composed of Mohawks from all 3 Clans and 9 Families (Ohwashira), but most of the other Nations / Tribes were "incomplete".  In addition there were many Delawares, Tuteloes, Nanticokes and other Anishinabe people who were represented by their own Chiefs at the Council established at the Mohawk Village in 1785, and at Onondaga (near Middleport) from 1805.  There never was a coherent hereditary council at Six Nations which was linked to the pre historical Deganawida and Hayenwagtha era which established the traditional Five (later Six) Nations Council - although there was indeed a group of Chiefs with inherited titles who represented the Community until 1924 when agitation by progressives at Six Nations (largely Mohawk) resulted in the establishment of an elected council to replace the increasingly dysfunctional "hereditary" group.  Since then there has been a group who claim to be lineal descendants of the Chiefs of the Kayenkiragowa and hence the only legitimate group to represent the people of Six Nations, but their legitimacy to play this role is not recognized by many at Six Nations and certainly not the Ontario (Little Crown) or Canadian (Big Crown) Governments.  Thus there are two major factions today - supporters of the HCCC and supporters of the Six Nations Elected Council (SNEC).  The former have continued to create problems at Six Nations and more widely in surrounding communities (e.g., the anarchy of 2006 in Caledonia) as they try to undermine the SNEC at every turn.

Despite the HCCC and its enforcement wing the Haudenosaunee Development Institute (HDI) often saying that they are willing to meet with SNEC to hammer out solutions to various problems, time and time again when the meeting date approaches HCCC members do not appear, or walk out of the meeting (e.g., recently because a string of wampum falling from a bench was seen as a bad omen).  So the groups are still as far apart as ever - the HCCC demands to be recognized by Six Nations and the Government as the only group with legitimate authority to represent the people of the Six Nations of the Grand River.  This brings us to the latest problem (in addition to the work stoppages at SNEC supported projects in conjunction with Hydro One).  This one has danger written all over it - FIRE.

The following information is found in an article entitled, Six Nations Fire Chief Sounds Alarm After "Unprecedented" String of Fires, in The Sachem of 11 July 2019 (page 3).  See here where it is reported that there has been an unprescedented number of house fires at Six Nations recently - a rash of five house fires over 10 days, according to Six Nations Fire Chief Miller.  Normally 10 to 20 firefighters would be sent to a blaze, but of late only 4 firefighters have been sent, all of whom are exhausted having had no time to recover from previous blazes.  Why so few firefighters when it would normally only take a phone call to neighbouring municipalities such as Haldimand, Norfolk, Brant, Brantford, or Hamilton and reinforcements would be on the way.  So what is different now?  According to Chief Miller, "Unfortunately this time around, they have concerns about safety for their firefighters as a result of the protest that's going on next door".  Thus while the groups from the local communities will still send assets to fight a fire that has erupted, they won't send staff to assist in the Ohsweken office out of concern for the safety of individuals from off Reserve.  This situation adds significantly to the response time.  "Miller doesn't blame the other fire services - if he was in that situation, he would share the same concerns".  Further Chief Miller said, "The honest truth is, if the protest wasn't happening, we would have firefighters from neighbouring municipalities that could be servicing the community and allowing us time to rest".

So what is the protest that is creating such a danger for Six Nations residents?  For months now the HCCC has basically locked the members of SNEC out of their offices by maintaining a presence at the Administration building (across the road from the fire hall), and through intimidation ensured that none of the legitimate Councillors are able to do their work.  They are demanding that SNEC, "signs a letter stating the Haudenosaunee Chiefs Confederacy Council - the traditional government - is the governing body of Six Nations".  So the bottom line is that the HCCC would put people's property and lives at risk to, for the umpteenth time, demand recognition as the only legitimate governing body at Six Nations.  This will never happen (it hasn't in the last 100 years), but that does not stop this faction from asserting their highly questionable claims - at any price.


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